7/16/08

Lambeth Conference begins

Every 10 years or so, all of the Anglican bishops from around the world gather in England, at Canterbury, the historic seat of the Archbishops of Canterbury for almost 1500 years, for the Lambeth Conference (named for the original meeting place at Lambeth Palace in London).

The Conference begins today and promises to be, one way or the other, one of the most significant Lambeth Conferences in the whole history of the Anglican Communion. Many believe that the crisis in the common life of the Communion has reached such a point that only the Lambeth Conference can decisively address the issues and set a way forward - and that it must do so if Anglicanism is to survive as a coherent movement. Many have also pointed to the structuring of the schedule at Lambeth and complained that it seems decisive action has been ruled out in advance. This is one (but not the only one) reason that around 200 of the over 800 Anglican bishops have boycotted the conference.

I fear that these boycotts themselves may prevent the Conference from having either the will or the moral authority necessary to address the crisis in the Anglican Communion in a decisive way. The picture on the left, I think, powerfully illustrates what is going on in this crisis. There will be no final compromise; all parties within the church simply CANNOT be appeased since what they desire are complete opposites. Indeed there are two opposite approaches to same-sex attraction - and each is held by its proponents to be fundamental to Christian morality and practice. The Church must decide where she stands. Or, I'm afraid, she will fall. I know that might sound a bit dramatic, but in my estimation (and more significantly, that of a huge number of Anglicans on both 'sides' of the current debates) that is the point to which Anglicanism has come.

Some even fear that this could, in effect, be the last Lambeth Conference if it should not act for the preservation of the Anglican Communion. An open letter to the bishops over at the Covenant Blog highlights many of the hopes and fears associated with this Lambeth from all sides.
I love this bit from the end of that letter:
"The grave concern that many of us have is that your conference will come and go without any of these matters being dealt with straightforwardly and positively. We know that there are many among you even who do not believe that your conference should be dealing with such matters, and would like the format of your meeting to exclude any decisions.

I cannot say what formal means are open to you. But I can say this: you are bishops of this church, you are gathering in the great name of Jesus Christ, and you are called to be faithful stewards of the mysteries entrusted to you (1 Cor. 4;1). "

You can follow the Conference at http://www.lambethconference.org/

Almighty and everlasting Father, you have given the Holy Spirit to abide with us forever: Bless, we pray, with his grace and presence the bishops and others now assembled in your Name, that your Church, being preserved in true faith and godly discipline, may fulfill all the mind of him who loved it and gave himself for it, your Son Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

-from The Book of Common Prayer, 1979, p. 255

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4 Comments:

Blogger Andrew C. Thompson said...

Thanks for your thoughts on Lambeth, Daniel. It will certainly be interesting to see what transpires across the pond on the coming days. I'll look forward to reading your commentary.

9:48 PM, July 20, 2008  
Blogger Stephen said...

The commenter, Nathan, summed up the letter pretty succinctly:
1. Eject the (liberal) “troublemakers” from the decision-making fold.
2. Mend fences with the (conservative) “troublemakers”
and bring them back into the decision-making fold.
3. Give some concrete hope to traditionalists.
4. State your unambiguous commitment to an Anglican Covenant.

The only thing that concerns me was something we talked about the other day. The ordination of women. I didn't realize how much of an issue this is among some in the Episcopal Church. The author in his "open letter" seems to imply ordaining same-sex attraction ministers in some dioceses is not okay, but banning women from ordination in some dioceses is okay.

I guess I wonder from where this strain came from because I thought that TEC was in most ways a more liberal church (hate labels) than the UMC. Do you think that TEC lack of formal "structure" or as we Methodists say "connection" has hurt them? Because while some churches still might not be readily open for a female minister in the UMC, I doubt you would have many who don't consent to females being ordained. (They probably all went to the Baptist Church in town. :))

12:00 PM, July 24, 2008  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

Hey Stephen,
There are two, possibly 3, dioceses in the Episcopal Church that do not ordain women (Ft. Worth being one of them). Who is ordained is finally up to the bishop. The Episcopal Church allows the ordination of women, but in some places (where Anglo-Catholic theology is prevelant) this is not practiced. In other places it is practiced rarely (I believe this is true in Dallas).

The ordination of women is viewed differently in different provinces of the Church. In many more Evangelical parts of the Church this is basically a non-issue - as in many places in Africa the ordination of women is taken for granted. This might surprise some - b/c those places are considered theologically conservative - but one must recognize that there are different sorts of conservatives. An Anglo-Catholic and an Evangelical will agree on many issues, but they are in fact VERY different when we start talking about sacraments (or sacramental ecclesiology). It is precisely at the point of sacramental ecclesiology that many (not all) Anglo-Catholics object to the ordination of women where Evangelicals - who do not share this theology - really don't care. Some Anglican Evangelicals do object to women's ordination, but do so on other grounds entirely - (on certain readings of a couple of texts from Paul). But many Anglican Evangelicals - such as N.T. Wright - have argued that if Paul is in fact correctly understood in his letters to Timothy and the Church at Corinth, there is actually no difficulty with this issue, since he is not in fact saying what many conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists have assumed he was saying.

As I wrote in my post on this issue a while back, I am perfectly OK with our UM Church accepting that sort of argument - what annoys me is when we base an argument for ordination on women on some imported idea from our secular society (like "equal rights") that is simply uncritically assumed to have theological merit, without being given much of a thought-out explanation.

I kind of admire their attempt to accomodate both views here - since they really are giving more than lip service to being "truly inclusive." The problem brought up by the recent General Synod of the Church of England is that some so-called 'inclusive' 'progressives' simply do not wish to include traditionalist Anglo-Catholics any longer.
Of course, I still want to try to let the Bible challenge our talk about 'inclusion' and 'exclusion' anyways. We follow the wild and crazy Jesus who excludes and casts out demons and hypocrits, but opens his arms to sinners and the weak. Maybe the Jesus of the Bible, rather than some abstract ideal of 'inclusivism' should be our standard?

3:23 PM, July 26, 2008  
Blogger Stephen said...

Amen!

In emergent circles they refer to this type of "inclusivism" as near/far relationship. i.e. how can we be closer to Jesus and in what ways are we still far from the heart of Christ. It has got them in trouble for being unwilling to say anyone is excluded from the conversation.

11:00 AM, July 28, 2008  

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